သတ္တမအကြိမ်မြောက် မီဒီယာဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးညီလာခံ ကျင်းပ
Seventh conference on media development heldMinistry of Information/ Nay Pyi Taw / December 06, 2018
The 7th Conference on Media Development in Myanmar was held at the Park Royal Hotel in Nay Pyi Taw yesterday. The conference entitled, ‘Building Effective Partnerships in Myanmar’s Media Development’, focused on legislation, freedom, safety, and sustainability of the media.
The Union Minister for Information, Dr. Pe Myint, Deputy Minister U Aung Hla Tun, Hluttaw representatives, ambassadors based in Myanmar, officials from international organizations and ministries, and invited guests attended the event.
Current media landscape in Myanmar
The first responsibility of the Ministry of Information is to disseminate information to the public and for doing so, the print and broadcast media of the government are mainly responsible for facilitating communication channels between the government and the general public, said Dr. Pe Myint at the conference.
Myanmar is striving to establish a democratic federal union, and the present Hluttaw has been elected by the people and the government has been formed through the Hluttaw for the people, he said. As both the Hluttaw and the government have been elected by the people, it is their duty to report to the people about their undertakings for the nation and its citizens, he added.
These duties are being shouldered by the state-run media, said the Union Minister. Future governments will have the media to connect with the public and the media may continue to exist in its current form or adapt to a more suitable form in the future, he said.
The Union Minister said his ministry is working to ensure private media flourishes as well. He said the previous government permitted publications of weekly and daily newspapers and journals, while new broadcasting channels were expanded under the current administration, including the establishment of a pilot community radio. He said the community radio project is in preparation for a time when strong laws and bylaws related to the media are enacted.
The Union Minister said the government has worked to ensure all journalists have access to information. He urged journalists and media organizations to build mutual trust to develop the media landscape. He said the government will continue to work for the development of the media.
Freedom of Expression and development of journalism
The Union Minister then discussed ‘Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Press’, one of the topics at the conference. He said freedom of expression and speech is a tremendously important topic and is directly related to the development of journalism.
Thus, there is always a desire to ensure this freedom, said the Union Minister. The government has always tried to enlist cooperation on that matter in meetings with domestic and international media organizations, he said, adding they have been unable to effectively cooperate on the matter last two years.
The Union Minister said he has heard statements claiming there is no freedom of press in Myanmar and that the situation in the country has been deteriorating in recent years. He advised people who made such statements to carefully scrutinize the situation before generalizing the situation and expressing blame.
Only then will those in charge be able to review any existing shortcomings, he said.
The Union Minister asked people to research how many newspapers and journals covered government leaders, departments and processes and to what extent in the three years following the abolishment of the prepublication censorship in 2012, and to compare it to the situation in the two years since the incumbent administration assumed office. He suggested commissioning an external research professional or organization which is believed to be unbiased to conduct the survey so that everyone will be able to perceive the true situation.
Bias, an unpredicted addition
He also explained the reason for using the word “professional or organization which is believed to be unbiased” which should conduct the survey. He said a book on freedom of press he’s read contained media freedom indices. The book has been published by DW Akademie, who are working with the MOI in media development, and has been compiled by Laura Schneider.
The Union Minister said he would like to know what standards and methods are used to measure the level of press freedom in Myanmar. He said only by knowing this will it be possible to make amendments where needed and to improve on aspects that hinder development. He said the book he’s read has a subtitle -‘What They Tell Us – And What They Don’t’, which describes what the people who measure the indices say and leave out. It is here that things get interesting, said the Union Minister.
The Union Minister said the book’s compiler researched the procedures of five organizations that compiled indices on international press freedom. He said the book details how each organization collects data and evaluates it and includes reviews and footnotes. He said the word ‘bias’ unexpectedly popped up frequently in the book.
In the book’s introduction, the writer also raised questions about which entities are behind the organizations who conduct the surveys, how they get funding, and what their purpose is, with the book gradually answering these questions, said the Union Minister.
It is research organizations that observe, review, and judge the international media and set media rankings. The research organizations are above the media. However, they themselves cannot escape the influence of those who fund them. So, the situation of each media monitored by research organizations is questionable said the Union Minister..
Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Expression
“We talk about editorial independence, but, the scope of editorial freedom is also under question. Can an editor oppose a publisher and can a publisher oppose advertisers who provide funds? Who is upholding the editorial policy? When these facts are taken into account, it is questionable who upholds freedom of press and freedom of expression,” the minister said.
“Joe Liebling, the prominent US journalist once said the freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one. When press freedom is discussed, the discussion focuses only on freedom from the influence of governments. This fact is also important. But, journalists should also try to avoid monetary influence,” he added.
Besides, when we talk about media literacy, a media which writes about media literacy urging the public or youths to be clever with media, should also disclose which person or organization owns their media, what funds it receives, what influences it and what its stances are.
UNESCO’s Media Development Indicators also underlined the importance of the transparency of ownership.
As a conclusion, I would like to quote two persons. The first is U Kyaw Naing, (Sayar Htet Myat), the Vice Chairman of the Myanmar Press Council. In a recent interview he said, “What journalists should do is to deeply pay attention to the country and the country’s affairs. They should have a spirit of patriotism and nationalism.” I have the same opinion as he does.
A journalist has a responsibility to deliver correct information to the public, and that responsibility can be considered the most important duty of a journalist. At the same time, as he or she is a citizen, he or she should have the spirit of being patriotic.
The second and most important quote I want to tell is what President U Win Myint said at the swearing in ceremony of the Myanmar Press Council last month. In the five points proposed by the President, the first four points are related to the rights and responsibility of news media personnel.
Raise the image of the country through the power of media
The fifth point urged media personnel to serve their country as citizens. I would like to reiterate the president’s request, when he said, “Raise the image of the country in which we were born, bring forth pride and dignity to its people through the power of the news media”.
Similarly, Resident Representative of the UNESCO Ms. Min Jeong Kim and Ambassador of Sweden to Myanmar Mr. Staffan Herrstrom delivered opening remarks.
After the opening session, the discussion continued focusing on topics including legal reforms to freedom of expression, right of access to information, implementation of broadcasting laws and rules, security of media personnel and sustainability of local media in the transformation period from traditional to the digital media. The Media Development Conference was held for six times in Myanmar. The first one was held from 19 to 20 March, 2012, the second from 20 to 21 May 2013, the third from 18 to 19 September, 2014, the fourth from 10 to 11 December 2015, the fifth from 7 to 8 November, 2016 and the sixth was from 7 to 8 December, 2017.
The British Embassy hosted a dinner to attendees of the con-ference.
(Translated by Zaw Htet Oo and Myat Thandar Aung)
Ref; the global new light of Myanmar